More Writing in Books

I write this column to fill, in some small part, a horrifying gap in the recent symposium on association copies, and the marks people have left in books. The Book, Other People’s Books, and the Symposium might seem to have covered everything: books owned by famous people, books marked by famous people, and, at length and with great feeling, books marked by people not so famous but with something to say. (I repeat this so you will think about that the next time you give someone a book. Scholars notice such things. One day, that copy of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood which you have inscribed “To Bundle Bunny From Bunky Boo” may be the centerpiece of a dissertation on ‘The Use of the Letter B in Intimate Inscriptions of the Twenty-first Century.)

But I don’t recall much attention being given to the marks booksellers make in books. Surely that’s an important part of the history of the book, when you see $5 crossed out and, under that, $2 crossed out, and under that $1 crossed out, and other that a bold 29 cents. And some slight attention could have been given to a kind of character study of those dealers who write the price in the front of the book and those who write in inside the back.

So to repair this omission, I have set out a few words and phrases you may see written in books at the Book Fair, with a quick definition.

Vol. 2, See Vol. 1: This means you have picked up part of a small set of books, and need to find volume 1 to learn the price. Yes, we COULD write the price in every single volume, but what are the chances, in the flurry of the moment, that the tally person would charge you for each volume? We don’t want that, do we? Thought so.

Two Vols in One: This was more common in past centuries. If I book didn’t sell well as a two volume set, the publisher might bind the two volumes in a single binding. Since the title pages remained the same, an unsuspecting customer, opening to the title page, will see “Volume 1”. Time could be wasted as they, remembering that last paragraph, hunt for volume 2. This little inscription warns you that everything you need is in that one volume. (An easy test for this, if you’re someplace where these things are not written out for you, is to take a look about two-thirds of the way through the book. If you find you’re on page 22, that’s a good sign that volume 2 is bound in with volume 1.)

Vol. 2 only: This is to let you know somebody donated only this volume, but we thought it would sell on its own. You can look for volume 1 uf you want to, but it probably isn’t there (But sometimes people cleaning out a house will bring one volume in the first load and another in the second load three months later, so it CAN happen)

Signed: This means the book has been signed by the author

Signed by the Editor: This means it was signed by somebody else

Inscribed: This means the person signing the book included a sentiment or a wish to someone specific in signing it. I think this has more going for it than a mere signature, but current wisdom is against me here

Inscribed to JoAnne Moore: This means that, um, really, we think the person the author inscribed the book to is more interesting than the author

F: This is not our grade on the text. In fact, it isn’t even a letter F. It’s what happens when a pricer is racing and writes 1.00 too fast

As is: This means there are some flaws in the book, and we know about them

As are: This means there are known flaws in a multi-volume work. Ooh, we love to show off grammar once in a while

There may be a few I’ve missed, but these are the most common (aside from the price, of course). It’s just another one of the perks of my position that I am encouraged to write these little notes, telling you things you need to know about the book. I started, you see, back in my high school days when, working in the library, I noticed the copy of Vidal Sassoon’s autobiography Sorry I Kept You Waiting, Madam.

Every time I checked it back in, I wrote on the pocket “On the contrary, I’m surprised to see you Sassoon.” Yes, it IS sad. 

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